Tag Archives: art

Award Ethics: Hollywood’s Casey Affleck-Nate Parker Controversy Is Ethically Simple, But Then, Hollywood Doesn’t Have Ethics

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (7734778do) Casey Affleck - Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama - Manchester By The Sea 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 08 Jan 2017

There were several possible Ethics Alarms posts that could have come out of The Golden Globe Awards last night, the obvious one involving the continuing arts community tantrum in the wake of the election of Donald Trump over Hollywood’s sweetheart, Hillary Clinton. Meryl Streep put herself in the running for “Gratuitous Cheap Shot Of The Year ” with her acceptance speech for something or other, but I decided that in a community where Rosie O’Donnell tweets “Fuck you!” to the Speaker of the House for simply completing his duty to certify the Electoral College vote, and over the weekend tweeted, “HE MUST NEVER BE SWORN IN – DELAY INAGURATION – INVESTIGATE – ARREST HIM” as her considered analysis of the proper workings of our democracy, Streep’s shot seemed like the height of restraint.

The more interesting issue on display at the Golden Globes  involves actor Casey Affleck, Batman’s brother, who won the night’s Best Actor in a Film Drama award for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” Last year, it was revealed that the actor had two sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him in 2010 that alleged he had groped women on the set and created a generally hostile work environment while directing the film, “I’m Still Here.” Since during the campaign Hollywood was all-in using misogyny and sexual  harassment as one of the many accusations against Donald Trump, some claim that honoring Affleck undermines the community’s assumed condemnation of the Trump-like conduct he was accused of.

Complicating the matter is the conundrum surrounding Nate Parker, the previously unknown black artist who was the main creative force behind the 2016 slave-revolt film “The Birth of a Nation.”  As Oscar buzz was ramping up for his film—remember that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences is more or less obligated to find plenty of nominations and awards for African Americans, regardless of objective artistic merit—  new details surfaced concerning a decades old criminal case in which Parker was accused of raping a female student while both were at Penn State.  He was acquitted,  but the facts were ugly, and the alleged victim committed suicide. Once that was known, all of the promise shown by “The Birth of a Nation” evaporated. Although the film was a smash at festivals, it received mixed reviews,bombed at the box office, and has been poison at the various awards so far, receiving no nominations.

The New York Times, among other media sources, has published several articles about the apparent double standard, saying most recently,
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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Well, These Episodes WOULD Have Helped Elect Donald Trump, If He Hadn’t Been Elected Already…

kkk-art

I can’t bring myself to be thankful for the election of a President who has horrified and revolted me for the better part of a decade, but I am thankful that some troubling trends and attitudes in our society and culture have received the metaphorical slap in the face that Trump’s victory delivered. The Ethics Alarms tag “This will help elect Donald Trump” is about to be retired, but when mourning progressives ask you today, while passing the gravy, “Why? Why?”, you should direct them to this link, and this post.  If they don’t help, they are are beyond helping.

Three awful stories surfaced after the election, two of them yesterday, that illustrate the kinds of social dysfunction that have been nurtured in the Obama years, and if a Trump administration can erase them and their ilk, returning some sanity to the national landscape, no one will be able to say the Trump experiment was a total bust…

1. First, and most unforgivable, we have this recent quote from Bernie Sanders’ former spokeswoman, Symone Sanders (no relation). Appearing on CNN yesterday and talking about the future of the shell-shocked Democratic Party, she said in part…

“In my opinion we don’t need white people leading the Democratic party right now.”

On April 6, 1987, Dodger executive Al Campanis appeared on  the ABC News show “Nightline,” and infamously said that black people couldn’t be major league baseball managers. The statement caused an uproar, and Campanis, whom nobody who knew him regarded as a racist, lost his job and career. Symone Sanders’ comment, which like that of Campanis equates the ability to do a job with race, is no less offensive than what Campanis said, but similar sentiments are broadcast frequently from black public figures without widespread obfection or consequence. ( Sanders also said sarcastically this month, after the election, when shown a video of a mob beating up a Trump supporter, “Oh my goodness, poor white people!”)

Acceptable anti-white racism and a bigotry double standard both defy American values, including basic decency, respect and fairness, but there are seldom consequences for shameless bigots like Sanders, except the cumulative one of having the people she and others denigrate for their color and ancestry sticking the human thumb named Donald Trump in their eyes.

It is no more racially biased for white Americans to take offense at the broad negative stereotyping endorsed by Sanders than for black Americans to oppose white supremacists…or clueless passive bigots like Al Campanis. Their anger at being told their skin disqualifies them for any job is justified, and the fact that news media talking heads nod respectfully at racist bile like the comments of Symone Sanders is further justification. (  Ted Koppel’s reaction to Campanis’s jaw-dropping statement 30 years ago can be fairly summarized as, “Wait…what? ) Not happily voting for a political party that embraces individuals who want to marginalize you because of race or gender isn’t bigotry, as the current Bitter Hillary Fan narrative now styles it. It is common sense.

Promoting racial division and bias is unhealthy and un-American no matter what direction it comes from. Until everyone can be certain that the Democratic Party is on board with that concept, and until proud and arrogant racists like Symone Sanders are shown the same level of tolerance Al Campanis received—that is, none—distrust of  progressives and the news media will grow, and should. Continue reading

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The Strange, Unique, Sort-Of Unethical Movie Career Of Marnie Nixon, a.k.a. Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, And Audrey Hepburn

"Heeeeere's MARNI!"

“Heeeeere’s MARNI!”

Marni Nixon died last month at 86, and I have been intending to write about her ever since.  An accomplished soprano with perfect pitch and a rare gift for mimicry, Nixon secretly dubbed in the songs for Deborah Kerr as Anna in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood as Maria in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” three of the most successful and honored Hollywood adaptations of Broadway musicals. In doing so she was assisting in the perpetration of a fraud on critics and audiences, but one that had, and indeed has, some legitimate ethical arguments, and rationalizations too, to justify it. Why is using a stunt singer any more dishonest than using a stunt man? Isn’t film about making the audience accept illusions in pursuit of art? If an audience member will be more likely to enjoy a film thinking that a major star can really sing, why is it wrong to make it possible for them to believe that, at least for a while?

The reasoning would have more power if long before Marnie did her secret singing Hollywood hadn’t already made a classic musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” that pronounced the practice fraudulent. Marni Nixon was a real life Cathy Seldon, the Debbie Reynolds contract player forced to supply the singing and speaking voice for a talentless silent film superstar, Lina Lamont, whose real voice would make dogs run for refuge and men claw off their ears, and whose continued status as a money-making asset for the studio depended on making her successful in talkies.

Ironically,  even “Singin’ in the Rain” engaged in the same fraud it was ridiculing. Debbie Reynolds was a competent singer, but a richer, more mature voice was needed to match the image of Jean Hagen, the terrific comic actress playing Lina. So when Debbie was shown secretly replacing Lina’s nightmarish singing voice with her own, another singer was secretly used, uncredited, to dub Debbie. Her voice fit Lina perfectly, because the voice put in Debbie’s mouth while she was supposedly putting her voice into Lina’s was the real voice of… Jean Hagen. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Samuel French, Inc.

collage

A ridiculous and offensive example of misuse of legal process and interference with free speech was just flagged by self-exiled Ethics Alarms star, Barry “Ampersand” Deutsch on his blog.

In her one woman play Thatswhatshesaid, playwright Courtney Meaker cherry-picked lines from the female characters in the eleven most-produced plays of past theater season, according to one list, anyway. She mashed them up for effect, the effect being to show how “society forces women to conform to certain harmful and paradoxical gender stereotypes, and America’s most popular plays reflect those stereotypes. Playwrights perpetuate the patriarchy by creating roles for women that reduce them to one version or another of male fantasy or fear, and playhouses make sure those plays have a home.”

Okaaay, I think I’ll be passing on that one! Nevertheless, re-arranging bits and pieces of other copyrighted works to create a different work and message from any of the components is such a well-traveled and obvious tool of the modern arts that to say this play’s content is fair use, legal and ethical should be completely unnecessary. Collages that do this (see above) have been accepted as routine; musical works and videos too. Here’s a favorite of mine…

But law, ethics and art didn’t stop Samuel French, the theatrical publishing company which licenses some of the plays quoted in Thatswhatshesaid. The company  sent a last minute cease-and-desist notice right before a performance, demanding the play not be presented, and also left a threatening message on the voicemail of the show’s sole performer, Erin Pike, promising to “go after” her, “the presenter and the theater and all the folks connected to it.” Despite being warned by the theater not to defy the mighty French, Pike made sure her show went on anyway, like any good and courageous artist should.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s Fresco

Fresco

In 1934, under the auspices of the New Deal’s Public Works of Art program, artist Ann Rice O’Hanlon painted a fresco (the largest ever painted by a woman up to that time) in the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. It has become famous and is much admired by art historians, and thousands of Kentucky students have walked past it through the decades. The large, six section artwork depicts many events, industries, traditions and activities that were significant to the state, invented in Kentucky or by Kentuckians, as well as historical events. Among the scenes shown are black slaves picking tobacco and black musicians serenading whites.

Ann Rice O’Hanlon’s masterpiece became the target of choice at Kentucky as the University ‘s black students were seeking to emulate the power plays by their equivalents at the University of Missouri, Yale, Amherst, Harvard Law, Dartmouth and other institutions. The Kentucky students held a meeting with president Eli Capilouto and argued that the fresco was offensive, as it relegated black people to roles as slaves or servants, and did not portray the cruelty of slavery and the later Jim Crow culture that existed in the state.  Capilouto capitulated, agreeing to move the work to “a more appropriate location.” In the meantime, Kentucky will cover up the 45-by-8-foot fresco while adding a sign explaining why the mural is obscured.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Should a university remove works of art on campus because particular groups of students or individual members of such groups find the artwork upsetting, offensive, or a negative influence on their experience?

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A Niggardly Principle Quiz: The Politically Incorrect Statue

Jesuit-Missionary-Pierre-Jean-De-Smet-slu

A  statue in the middle of the campus of Saint Louis University, a private Jesuit institution, depicted famous Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two Native Americans dressed in traditional clothing. There had been increasingly intense demands from some faculty and student activists to remove the statue. Summarizing the objections, a student editorial recently argued that the statue sent an unacceptable message to Native Americans and others that

“You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion…The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy.”

[ The editorial also said that “As the protests surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner have shown us, just because racist policies are off the books doesn’t mean that racism is no longer practiced.” I am trying not to allow that fatuous, counter-factual and ignorant statement cause me to regard the writer and his piece as unworthy of serious consideration.]

Naturally, as is almost always the case, the spineless, path-of-least-resistance driven administrators at the university capitulated, and moved the statue into some museum.  Note that this is a Jesuit university, and teaching is one of the primary things that the Jesuit order does.

De Smet was a remarkable individual who, far from imposing his beliefs on Native Americans, began his obsession with starting far West missions for the native tribes in the U.S. after the Salish and the neighboring Nez Perce sent four delegations to St. Louis, where he was stationed, to find a “black robe” to live among them. Continue reading

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“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

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